Top 10 Terrible Game Companies That No Longer Exist
VOICE OVER: Riccardo Tucci
WRITTEN BY: Caitlin Johnson
These awful Video Game Companies are no longer with us for a very good reason! Welcome to WatchMojo.com and today we'll be counting down our picks for the top 10 terrible game companies that no longer exist.
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Top 10 Terrible Game Companies That No Longer Exist
Some companies are doomed to fail from the beginning. Welcome to WatchMojo.com and today we’ll be counting down our picks for the top 10 terrible game companies that no longer exist.
For this list, we’re looking at video game companies which have permanently shut down. This isn’t to say that every game all of these studios came out with was terrible, sometimes it was definitely an issue of a fall from grace, but they all did something wrong that led to their closure.
#10: Silicon Knights (1992-2014)
They may have put out some good games at one point, but when controversial CEO Denis Dyack decided to sue Epic Games for failing to provide a working version of Unreal 3 he was digging his own grave. Epic fought back by counter-suing, saying that Silicon Knights illegally used Unreal 3 without the proper licensing. Epic won $4.45 million and all Silicon Knights properties using Epic’s codes were ordered to be destroyed. In 2014 they filed for bankruptcy and went on to form Precursor Games, which also couldn’t get off the ground thanks to a failed Kickstarter campaign and co-founder Kenneth McCulloch being charged with possession of child pornography.
#9: Active Enterprises (1989-93)
Despite having “active” in their name, they were anything but. During their very short lifespan, they only released one game, the now-infamous “Action 52.” It was a compilation of fifty-two completely unlicensed games released originally for the NES, none of which worked how they were supposed to. A glitchy, unfinished mess with endless levels and repetitive mechanics, not one of the fifty-two games was actually any good. On top of that, it originally sold for $199, meaning very few people could spare the cash to buy it. Ironically today “Action 52” cartridges are so rare they’ve actually increased in value… somehow.
#8: Mystique (1982-83)
They say that sex sells, but 1980’s company Mystique took this far too literally. Creating a genre of games they dubbed “Swedish Erotica” – despite none of the games or employees having any connection to Sweden whatsoever – all three of their releases were infamously bad and highly pornographic. Most notably was “Custer’s Revenge”, in which the player controls an 8-bit sprite which looks like a naked man in a cowboy hat, indiscriminately named after General Custer, and directs him to have sex with a Native American woman tied to a cactus while dodging arrows. Many people rightly took offense to this and the company quickly shut down in the midst of the 1983 crash.
#7: Data Design Interactive (1983-2012)
The masters of pumping out identical, terrible shovelware titles, it’s no wonder that DDI ultimately went into insolvency and closed its doors for good. Even its most notable games remain obscure and unpopular, while almost all of them are exact clones of one of their earliest games, “Ninjabread Man”, just reskinned. This game was already bad the first time around, consisting of only three levels taking under an hour to beat. The core gameplay is throwing unlimited projectiles at the on-screen enemies until you kill enough of them that you revert to the title screen, ready to do it all again.
#6: Titus Interactive (1985-2005)
This Paris-based company didn’t begin all bad but in the late ’90s and early 2000s, they began a slow but sure decline in quality and popularity. Once seen as a potential rival to AAA giant EA, they eventually found themselves releasing the infamous commercial failures “Superman 64” and “RoboCop.” The former suffered a lot of issues from DC Comics, including very close creative direction and a six-month approval process post-development, all of which resulted in what has been called the worst video game ever made – and it’s very easy to see why.
#5: Animation Magic (1992-2001)
Making good video games was never really on the table for Animation Magic. After going through various name changes and company mergers, the entire studio – half-based in Maryland and half-based in St. Petersburg – was closed down in 2001. Of its ninety employees, two-thirds of these were animators, tasked with working on the disastrous “Zelda” games released for the CD-i. They only made two, “The Faces of Evil” and “The Wand of Gamelon”, but both were of such a low quality that it’s no surprise nobody makes games on CDs anymore.
#4: Stellar Stone (2000-04)
As a cost-cutting measure this studio outsourced most of its work to Russia and Ukraine, but their games were such failures that they would have saved more money if they hadn’t started the company to begin with. Of their seven major titles, the only one you might have heard of is “Big Rigs: Over the Road Racing.” Supposed to be a racing game for trucks and semis, “Big Rigs” was a broken, pre-alpha mess. There was no game over screen, no AI, no sound, and every race ended with a pop-up reading “YOU’RE WINNER.” Stellar Stone, who closed down in 2004, were definitely not winners.
#3: Tiger Telematics (2000-06)
With humble beginnings as an electronics distributor and a carpet retailer, this unlikely duo joined forces to become Tiger Telematics. They made it their mission to create a brand-new handheld console to rival the market dominance of Sony and Nintendo and created the Gizmondo. Despite a lavish marketing campaign, upon release, only 25,000 units were sold. A year after its release the company went bankrupt with over $300 million of debt, while it was also discovered that three high-ranking company executives had ties to the Swedish mafia and multiple previous convictions for fraud.
#2: LJN (1970-95)
Originally a toy company, few studios are as infamous as LJN, who made their bad name churning out licensed property after licensed property. All their games were cash-ins using the names of established franchises and nearly every last one of them was terrible. However, contrary to popular belief, LJN aren’t entirely to blame for these gaming failures. Throughout their tenure they only published games, they did not develop them, but the fact remains that they almost exclusively put out stinkers, which explains why they didn’t stick around.
#1: Digital Homicide Studios (2014-16)
“The Slaughtering Grounds” may not have been worst-game-of-all-time material, but gamers agreed unanimously that it sucked. Its developers couldn’t bear to hear the ugly truth, however, and rather than just accept that they made a bad game they decided to bring lawsuits against everybody who criticized their titles. This included a $10 million lawsuit against Jim Sterling for “assault, libel, and slander”, as well as another $18 million taken out against various Steam users for “personal injury.” The hefty cost of these failed lawsuits ultimately led to them going out of business; it seems their business model was the real digital homicide all along.